About this Study

Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) is completing its latest community inquiry, Children 1-2-3: Early Learning for Future Success. This community engagement process has been examining the question, "How can Jacksonville best foster early learning success for children from birth to age 3 in our community?" Over the course of the process (October 2011 through April 2012), the meeting schedule, meeting summaries, key handouts and relevant articles have all been posted here. To find out more, please email tonia@jcci.org.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Better indicators and child friendly cities

During the December 7, 2011 meeting Dr. Jeff Goldhagen mentioned that our community needed better indicators for  measuring school readiness. He mentioned Colorado's indicators as a great example for the committee to review. Take a look at Colorado's School Readiness Indicators.

The Child Friendly Cities Initiative (a response to the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child) was discussed as well.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Early Childhood Education – A Great Return on Investment

In a phone meeting with some of my colleagues at Parenting before I started writing for this blog, I was describing my take on education policy and I said that it was important to me to remain fairly neutral on most topics in this debate-filled world of education reform, especially until I’d done my due diligence in researching each topic.

One woman interjected that some things we can pretty much all agree on, like early literacy. And it was true, we could all agree on the importance of early literacy, meaning all of us on that call, but not everyone can. I have friends who believe that children should initiate any learning and that as parents we need to follow their lead or risk killing forever their love of learning by introducing concepts too early.

Others may agree that early childhood education is important but don’t want to spend taxpayer money to make it available to all children. There are multiple sides to any story but today I present the case for funding and supporting early childhood education.

In January, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “High quality Early Childhood Education programs are arguably the best investment our country can make.” I assumed he was talking about an investment, as in, “an investment in our future,” or, “an investment in improving the lives of young people,” not an actual financial investment.

But a National Institutes of Health study published this month shows that ECE really is an investment that pays off, not only developmentally but also financially for both the children enrolled in ECE programs and tax payers. The study followed participants from Chicago-based, federally funded Child-Parent Centers until age 26 to find out how their participation in the program paid off.

An article in USA Today reports that “each dollar spent on the program generated $4 to $11 in return, both because children finished high school or college, earning more than their peers, and also because participants were less likely to be held back, arrested, depressed, involved with drugs or sick.”

In a time when budgets are tight and education funding is facing staggering cuts, early education programs could be a way to spend money where it will be most developmentally and fiscally effective.

By Kathryn Young Thompson at Parenting.com

Referenced reading
USA Today: Early childhood education benefits both kids, taxpayers, study says
Chicago Longitudinal Study

Friday, December 23, 2011

We Need a New Start for Head Start

In January, we learned that the $7 billion Head Start preschool program produces far fewer positive effects on participants' lives than its advocates have assumed. A rigorous study found that the program, after producing some initial gains during preschool, had almost no effect on children's cognitive, social-emotional, or health outcomes at the end of 1st grade, compared with a control group of children whose families had access only to the usual community services.

It would be a mistake to jump to the conclusion that early-childhood education never works. Clearly some programs, including some individual Head Start centers, do. This is the 10th instance since 1990 in which an entire federal social program has been evaluated using the scientific "gold standard" method of randomly assigning individuals to a program or control group. Nine of those evaluations found weak or no positive effects, for efforts such as the $300 million Upward Bound program (academic preparation for at-risk high school students), and the $1.5 billion Job Corps program (job training for disadvantaged youths). Only one - Early Head Start, a sister program to Head Start for younger children - was found to produce meaningful but modest effects.

A far better alternative is to use rigorous evidence about "what works" to evolve Head Start and other federal efforts into truly effective programs over time, and to use sophisticated models to trace their longer-term effects on children's life prospects…This approach draws on the insight that most of these programs are actually broad funding streams that finance multiple models and strategies ("interventions"). Although evaluations may show that the program as a whole has little or no positive effect, certain specific interventions within it may indeed be effective. An example of this in preschool education is Project Upgrade, a Miami-Dade County, Fla., initiative that trained teachers of low-income preschoolers in language and literacy instruction. Its interventions were shown in a large randomized evaluation to increase the development of children's vocabulary and early reading skills by four to nine months over the course of a single school year, compared with the control group.

The American public is increasingly concerned about the way their tax dollars are being spent. A clear shift in direction, based on proven-effective strategies, could turn programs such as Head Start into potent, rather than ineffectual, forces against the major problems facing the nation.

Read the entire article at Brookings

Monday, December 19, 2011

Putting the Social into Science

No child is born able to read; this task is learned from parents and teachers in a social setting. In other words, one of our most essential abilities as humans--reading--is the product of a combination of innate and learned traits.

The distinction between nature and nurture was always a false dichotomy even before it became a cliche, yet we still tend to think of biology and culture as warring explanations for human experience. But recent scientific discoveries are putting this mind-set on a collision course with reality. Things we once thought were entirely determined by culture--like our choice of friends or our voting patterns--turn out to have deep evolutionary roots…we also know that early social experiences, such as education, poverty, malnutrition and child abuse, can modify the expression of a person's genes.

This new biosocial science not only reshapes our understanding of humanity but also holds promise for public policy and public health. Organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institute on Aging see that some of our most vexing health problems--malaria, for example--cannot be solved by pharmacological and engineering solutions alone. We can develop novel insecticides and special bed nets to prevent mosquito bites and distribute them via clever supply chains to remote villages. Yet if the people there don't change their behavior--and if we can't pair our biological understanding with an understanding of that behavior--then we will continue to fail.

The melding of the biological and social sciences can feel threatening. On the political right, people resist because they want to see humans as separate from the natural world and not unmoored from moral or religious absolutes. On the left, they resist because they don't want to believe we have an intrinsic biology that could play a role in human affairs

For the past 100 years, people have looked to the physical and biological sciences to solve societal problems and have reaped great rewards with discoveries, from nuclear power to plastics to antibiotics. But in the 21st century, it is biosocial science that holds the key to improving human welfare. If we were to see humans as fully part of nature, we might even solve the hardest problem in all of science: the origin of human consciousness itself.

Read the entire article By Nicholas A. Christakis in the December 19, 2011 edition of Time Magazine